Published: 18:00, 24 March 2021
| Updated: 18:33, 24 March 2021
Customs checks are now fully operational at Ashford's purpose-built Brexit lorry park.
The Sevington facility next to Junction 10a houses a HMRC customs checkpoint, which had been under construction until this week.
As an interim measure, the checks were being completed at the neighbouring Waterbrook Park, owned by the GSE Group.
This had cost the government millions in rent however all of the necessary equipment has now been moved onto the adjacent Sevington site.
It is hoped the launch of customs checks on the 66-acre plot will ease disruption on the surrounding area.
Early in its operation - during the first week of January - residents in Mersham and Sevington noted a number of truckers getting lost in the small lanes surrounding the site.
This was exacerbated by lorry drivers being given the wrong postcode, prompting the installation of more signs.
At the time, MP Damian Green suggested these were “teething problems” and this has largely proved true as there have been minimal issues after mid-January.
The full opening comes as Manston’s use as a HGV holding area was ended on Sunday.
All Dover-bound trucks had been directed to the disused airfield for Covid and customs checks, but as part of the government’s post-Brexit plan it was always intended that all freight would go via Ashford.
Operation Brock’s traffic management scheme will now be used, with one coastbound lane of the M20 heading to Dover and another lane heading to Eurotunnel.
The Sevington site will eventually include a station for Defra checks, in which both inbound and outbound food and agricultural supplies will be assessed.
Work on this section was scheduled to begin in July, however it now won’t be required for a few months more.
The government delayed the start of paperwork checks on food and plant imports from April 1 to October, and physical checks that were to be applied to all imported goods from July 1 will now be introduced in January 2022.
It is now not known when the Defra section will be completed by.
Those behind the scheme are anxious for the summer, when holiday travel to the continent could once again be possible.
This will prove the true test for the Sevington facility, and for the government's preparation of Kent's post-Brexit traffic mitigation plan.